Manatee Education Television (METV) celebrates 20 years of covering Bradenton, Sarasota

Back in the summer of 1991, Manatee Educational Television hit the airwaves with a special back-to-school program.

METV programming planned to rely on material from the Manatee County School Board, Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida) and the University of South Florida.

It's a commitment that continues today as METV prepares for its sold-out 20th anniversary gala Saturday at the South Florida Museum in downtown Bradenton.

The home of Snooty the manatee is where attendees will be shown a wide, rich variety of video clips including one of the last interviews ever granted by filmmaker great Robert Altman.

"If we're not shooting something, we're editing or getting ready for the next shoot," said station manager Charles Clapsaddle. "Everything from candidate forums to mental health programs, the diversity is pretty extensive."

The Bradenton nonprofit produces more than 30 original programs each month on community, cultural and educational issues as well as concerns and opportunities.

METV segments are broadcast on Bright House channel 614, Verizon FIOS channel 31 and Comcast channel 19.

Or, you can browse a slew of videos, including interviews with movie stars such as Christopher Plummer and Geena Davis, at the station's YouTube channel by clicking through metvweb.com.

The METV website is also where you can purchase a copy of the 2010 feature "Through the Tunnel."

Shot in Manatee County, the picture won the Best Historical Documentary Award at the

docMiami International Film Festival and has been an official festival selection for screenings throughout the Southeast.

"Through the Tunnel" focuses on the former all-black Lincoln Memorial High School in Palmetto and how its powerhouse football team played a key role in the integration of the Manatee County public school system.

Clapsaddle named the documentary the most popular program in the history of METV.

"Not only has it received a lot of recognition regionally, it created a lot of community involvement," he said.

And that's crucial to Clapsaddle.

Since relocating here in 2000 from Washington, D.C., he has dedicated himself to METV and Manatee County.

If there's a community event, county meeting or a local fundraiser, Clapsaddle is there behind the camera.

"The beauty of METV is that it's constantly reflecting what the community is and does," he said. "It gives the people a forum to express themselves."

Details: 6-10 p.m. Sept. 22, South Florida Museum, 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. Tickets: $75 (at press time the event was sold out). Information: 941-751-6550, ext. 2192, or www.metvweb.com.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer and columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057.